September 26, 2018

The art of writing

Someone once asked me, having found out that I'd written a couple of novels in addition to what you read here on the website and in The Electronic Mirror, whether I preferred  fiction or non-fiction. The typical way I answer that kind of question, and the way I probably answered it this time, is "Yes." Writing, at heart, is all about storytelling, and though that might seem to be more obvious when writing a novel or short story, it's also true about non-fiction. The true historian, the investigative journalist into the past, has to know how to frame these discoveries, opinions, presentations or what have you, into some type of narrative that tells the reader a story, that keeps him turning the page time after time.

It's true that there are different methods of storytelling. When it comes to fiction, as those of you who've bought The Collaborator or The Car can probably tell, my style there tens to be somewhat postmodern (though I haven't gone completely off the bend; there is still a story at the heart of it). I was greatly influenced by non-linear, visually arresting, prose when I was learning how to be a reader (as opposed to learning how to read). Second Skin, by John Hawkes, was one such example, as was the story "By the Waters of Babylon" by Steven Vincent Benét, which, years after the fact, remains one of the most striking things I've ever read in my life. As I moved from being a reader to a writer, and learned how to "write by ear" (i.e. making sure what you've written sounds right to you), I latched on to more classically postmodern writers like Don DeLillo and I suppose you'd have to say that this is the kind of prose I've settled on as a fiction writer.

Now, that's not necessarily the kind of writing one wants to do when writing non-fiction, such as this website. I don't know that reviewing an issue of TV Guide using the voice of Thomas Pynchon is the most effective way to communicate to readers (although I should try it sometime). That "diary" entry on MANC that I did last week is probably the closest I'll ever get to doing creative writing here. 

That doesn't mean that writing here isn't creative, of course. One has to find a way to tell the story - a story that, on first glance, can seem to be the same week after week - in an engaging way, a way that captures and keeps the attention of the classic TV fan. It may not be the same as the prose in my novels, but it's something I work at crafting every bit as diligently. I don't know about other writers, but I often consider the art of writing to be one in which sentences and paragraphs are constructed, and the writer himself is more like an architect than anything else. Pride goeth before a fall, but I daresay I'm proud of some of the pieces I crafted for The Electronic Mirror. I've invested almost my whole life in television one way or another, and I consider the opportunity to write about it to be a privilege that ought to be safeguarded.

If this sounds like a brief meditation on the writer's craft, you're right. If it sounds like a commercial for my books, you're also right. You really need to go to my author page and invest in The Electronic Mirror; since you're reading this website, you really have no excuse! And while you're there, you might as well check out The Car and The Collaborator, two very different novels, and see if you prefer my fiction or non-fiction.

If this also sounds like the kind of piece one writes when facing a short deadline and without anything else in the hopper - well, you're right there as well. I can't promise I'll be deep in the cellar of classic television history next week - the completion of The Electronic Mirror and the presentation at MANC really were exhausting - but you know it's coming sooner or later. TV  


  1. Just purchased my copy of The Electronic Mirror, and am very much looking forward to reading it.

    1. Many thanks, David. According to the blurbs on the back cover, it comes highly recommended! :)


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!